Bodie State Historical Park is one of my favorite places to shoot. In north east California, just north of Mono Lake, it was a boom town that was abandoned and left to disappear. The state took over and has kept it in a state of “arrested decay”, meaning that they don’t repair anything, but the also don’t allow it to get worse.
Winters brought snow ten feet deep and summers were hot and dry. The mills of the mines were loud and constant. And the population was a large group of hard living miners who weren’t always law abiding. Life must have been hard during it’s hay-day.
Shooting there is a blast. It has a shot everywhere you turn. They also have a museum where you can look at the artifacts found on site from a past culture. Inside, against a window is this collection of old bottles from the town.
I took this with a Lensbaby and actually did a great job getting the sweet spot in focus. I like the blur on the outside edges of the shot and the clarity of the center bottle.
I wish I could have staged this image, but I didn’t. In 2009, I spent an entire Saturday in Bodie Historical State Park with the sole purpose of photographing the ghost town and documenting the area.
Late in the afternoon, I was walking down the hill to my car to rest and get something to eat and drink. I looked to my left and noticed this two gentlemen dressed in full cowboy clothing sleeping in the shade of one of the small buildings about thirty feet off the main road. They were wearing the whole thing; hats, boots with spurs, Lee jeans, leather belts with big brass buckles, and long sleeve, button down shirts.
They looked just like a scene out of a western movie; laying on the grass, hats over their faces to block out the sun, taking a mid-afternoon nap. I kept looking around for the reason that they were there, expecting to see a movie set or horses or something. I could find nothing, but I was happy with the scene as I shot away trying to get the right composition.
I have several different shots, but I like this one best. The only regret is that the sky is a boring blue. I would have liked to have some dramatic clouds or at least some nice white cumulus clouds, but I haven’t learned how to control the weather yet.
Another shot from Bodie State Park. It was nearing the end of the day. I had traveled to Bodie for a photographers day, where they open up the park early for the photographers and then let them stay late. It costs extra and they only offered it about once a month, but for a photographer, it is worth it.
I was tired and sitting on a bench on the mains street. My plan was to catch the last light on the buildings as it went down. I was looking across the street at some of the artifacts and then turned my head and noticed that the ground was on fire. At least that was what it looked like.
What I saw was the reflection of the sunlit building in a puddle on the street. I wasn’t really tired anymore. I shot for another half an hour before I moved on to get the sunset shots I was looking for.
Bodie Bank Vault
The ghost town of Bodie, a California State Park, is a turn of the century mining town in “arrested decay”. That means that they don’t help prevent the decay of the town, but they don’t help it either. If you want to see an old gold mining town, Bodie is the place to visit.
On a warm spring day, I spent an entire day exploring as much of the site as I could. While they have blocked off a lot of the buildings from entrance, you can still get some good vantage points from which to shoot from. The screen they use to cover the windows, is at least four inches square.
In the old bank building, they still have most of the brick vault and the original door to the safe. While it is inside of the brick building, there is enough room near the entrance to position a flash and the camera to get some interesting shots.
I liked the ornate painting that they used on the door and the simplicity of the combination lock and handle. I can imagine the bank manager opening the vault at the beginning of the day to get the money for the teller and locking it up every night after placing the deposits inside. If only it could talk.